Scientists are learning as much as they can from the first interstellar asteroid ever observed. The interstellar asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua, was found back in October 2017 by researchers using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope, located on the top of Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii. ‘Oumuamua got the attention of the team since it did not move like comets and asteroids usually do – this is according to scientist Rob Weryk at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where it was first reported.
The object, which was observed about two weeks ago, is now passing through the constellation Pisces. In a few months, it will be become faint and far away to be observed by even the largest telescopes.
It is truly a fascinating event which has captivated the scientific community. According to David Jewitt, an astronomer from the University of California, Los Angeles, “we are seeing a body from elsewhere in the Galaxy passing through our Solar System. It’s the first time we’ve seen such a thing.”
‘Oumuamua is passing through the solar system very fast, so scientists are gathering as much data as they can about it. Jewitt adds that because it’s going really fast, they have “a limited time to get any measurements at all.” They are interested to find out what it is made of, but it is dark and the spectra – which is what astronomers use to determine the composition of celestial objects – has only revealed little information. This is the reason why it is yet to be determined from what solar system it is and how long it has been in orbit.
Astronomers are still trying to learn more about the asteroid. So far, they have determined that it is small, measuring over 400 meters in length and about 40 meters wide. While it has passed close to the Sun, it did not develop a tail like a comet would, this is one of the reasons for its asteroid classification. Scientists will continue to observe it while it is still visible through their telescopes.